Speech by His Majesty King Willem-Alexander at the State banquet on the occasion of the State visit to Denmark, 17 March 2015
Thank you for your kind words. And thank you for the warm hospitality we have received from you and Prince Henrik. For my wife and me, Denmark truly feels like home.
You have known me my whole life. Almost 48 years ago, you stood at the baptismal font in The Hague's Sint Jacobskerk as my godmother. Now, here we are in Denmark on a State visit. I have visited Denmark many times in the past, but for me personally this is a very special experience.
Your country is known in the Netherlands and around the world as a happy country. The question of what happiness is has been puzzling writers and thinkers for centuries. Hans Christian Andersen published a short story on the subject in 1869, Lykken kan ligge i en Pind. It starts like this:
'All of us know what it is to be lucky. Some know good luck day in, day out. Others know it only now and then, in their lucky seasons. And there are some people who know it only once in a lifetime. But luck comes at some time or other to us all.'
No one can grab hold of happiness. But the Danes do their very best to create the right conditions for it. Your country cherishes freedom, equality and mutual trust. The strength of your society lies in the bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood. Denmark balances sustainable prosperity with wellbeing. These are all essential conditions for happiness.
But happiness can be fragile, too. As we saw last month when this city was hit by a ruthless attack on the freedom of expression and on the Jewish community. The Danes’ mindful and measured response to this tragedy made a deep impression in the Netherlands. Despite the shock, grief and concern, the people of Denmark stood firm, refusing to be provoked. This example of civic spirit deserves the highest respect.
Your Majesty, you expressed it perfectly when you called on your people to preserve Danish unity and protect the values that Denmark is built on.
Both Denmark and the Netherlands are wrestling with the same, difficult question: how should free, open societies respond to those who wish to destroy them? According to the World Happiness Report, both our countries have a lot to be proud of. At the same time, the values at the heart of our collective happiness are under pressure. It sometimes seems impossible to reconcile widely differing opinions and interests. So how can we safeguard the values we hold so dear? That is one of the issues we will address during this State visit.
Denmark and the Netherlands are well placed to support each other in this debate, because there are so many things that unite us. Our people share a certain mentality: they are level-headed, unpretentious and see things in perspective.
But although the Dutch may like to keep both feet firmly on the ground, I assure you we can also be enthusiastic! Your country, Your Majesty, has so much to offer. Denmark inspires us.
With stunning Danish design, brilliant in its simplicity.
With world-class footballers.
With sustainable energy. You’re a European leader in wind energy, for instance. The way the residents of Samsø island generate their own energy is a great example for the Dutch island of Texel. We look forward to our visit there tomorrow.
And then there are your excellent TV series and films. Millions of Dutch viewers have been gripped by Borgen, The Legacy and, of course, The Killing. Twenty episodes about a single murder investigation. And still viewers were kept on the edge of their seats the whole time. TV drama at its very best.
Your Majesty, our countries’ diplomatic relations may go back 410 years, but today they are stronger than ever. In this time of rising international tensions, when the values that underpin our societies are challenged, we need to act in concert. We shouldn’t be defensive; we should be self-assured, and proud of everything our countries have built.
There's no such thing as an earthly paradise. But what unites our nations is the conviction that freedom, justice and solidarity can bring people closer to happiness.
Your Majesty, next month you will celebrate your 75th birthday. My wife and I look forward to coming back to congratulate you on the big day, but tonight I'd like to ask everyone here to raise their glass with me.
To your good health, Your Majesty. To the good health of Prince Henrik and to the wellbeing of your family.
To the happiness of the Danish people.
And to the close bond between Denmark and the Netherlands.